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Posted by on Jul 27, 2018

Harting Heights

Harting Heights

Freewheeling over Harting Down Another one of the places I am very pleased to have revisited is Harting Down, a very pleasant fly site, a largely unobstructed wide open field, only made Level 3 by the often turbulent and prodigious wind, and by the difficulty of recovery should things go wrong while you are over the edge into the valley beyond. But the careful pilot who goes on the right day, when the wind isn’t too bad gets rewarded by some epic views of the Hampshire countryside in the afternoon sun. Afternoon Artefacts I am beginning to see the wisdom of getting a neutral density filter set. As I venture out on flying missions in the day, as opposed to golden hour / sunsets, then I find myself having to set exposures very low (shutter speeds of up to 1/1000 needed today), which, given that I was filming at 60 FPS, is a long way from ideal. 1/120 would be the perfect setting for ultra smooth video there, and...

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Posted by on Jul 26, 2018

High Gold

High Gold

Return to Elsted I’ve missed this place in my time of no-flyings, so it’s nice to be back. I didn’t get here sooner only because I was working my way back up to it, after all this is what I’d call a level 3 fly-site – massive wide space, but lots of obstacles at a range of heights, and massive body of water nearby to not fall into. Also a minor road to avoid overflying, sometimes there is low air traffic, and usually walkers / dogs on the common, although unusually I didn’t see a single one today ! I was utterly alone with my Typhoon H and we had the skies to ourselves ! Technically Speaking I wouldn’t call today’s flights flawless – they started off that way, and kept going for a whole 20 minutes of flight. But during the last part of the second flight, I was hearing a rare but familiar short unusual motor buzz from the craft on reaction to input, there was a...

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Posted by on Jul 24, 2018

Water Works

Water Works

New Fly Site Alert Ever since curiosity got the better of me and I airwheeled my way down that lane down by Penns Place I have admired the view from the field that waits at the end of the road. We have a clear view all the way to Butser, but I couldn’t help noticing how perfect it would be for flying too. But I wasn’t flying at the time, so that plan was shelved for a while. But I am flying now :) There are a couple of houses there, but they are perfectly hidden by tree banks, so their privacy shouldn’t be affected by my presence. It is good in terms of space – there is certainly more than enough of that, very few obstacles (some powerlines, positions / heights noted), but it’s less ideal in terms of openness, being SO open that a fairly colossal amount of wind comes off the hills and sweeping into that field on most days. That keeps me away from here...

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Posted by on Jul 23, 2018

Petersfield Pans

Petersfield Pans

It’s not a good idea (or legal) to film in town centers, where there are a lot of people, but for a long time I have been looking into other ways to get decent shots of my home town without breaking any rules. It all comes down to finding launch sites that are in exactly the right place – right on the edge of town, and I have been looking for those a lot recently. As you’ll see, I found 2 suitable sites, where I could launch in green fields with good tree protection, and more than 50 m away from any building, and 150 m away from any building with people in. Hospital Recreation Field Not alot of room to play here, but we do meet the minimum requirements for distance from buildings at launch, and if we go pretty much straight up and down in a single line we are doing considerate flying, not overflying any building or structure, and generally keeping out of the way, and...

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Posted by on Jul 23, 2018

Turning Circles

Turning Circles

We’re down at Penns Place, today having a little fun on the ground before heading up high for the sunset… Finding Form Now that I am happy that the craft is relatively safe and stable in the air I can turn my attention more towards filming techniques, especially the unique and unusual perspectives offered by having total gimbal independence from the craft. So I start this video exploring the travelling pan, where our camera rotates at a constant rate while the craft moves in a straight line, and then later a much more variant flight path. This produces really nice, slightly dizzying epic sweeps of the surroundings, and the effect becomes much more pronounced if you add altitude change and reverse direction into the mix as well. Loving the results of that so far, I imagine I’ll do quite a lot of it wherever flying circumstances allow (can only happen where you have clear VLoS for the entire path, because you obviously can’t rely on a screen that isn’t...

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Posted by on Jul 23, 2018

New Fly Site – Rake Lane

New Fly Site – Rake Lane

The Lay of the Land… Special Assistant Andy told me about a cool little field he passes on the way from Milland to Petersfield, and having pre-flighted on google maps it did look ideal, in that it was vast, safe, miles from anywhere, and the landscape was very attractive, and contoured interestingly, and today it was particularly good because of all the black-wrapped hay bales everywhere. But we did get there quite late, so light was fading fast, and there wasn’t as much time as I would have liked to really use the space to our advantage, but the sunset was great, a nice ethereal spooky pink and purple one that made a nice end to the fun flyings in the field below. Can we fly here ? My main concern with any fly site is ‘Is it safe to fly?’, but there are other considerations too. It is very difficult to seek permission to fly at these sorts of places because it is almost never clear who owns...

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Posted by on Jul 20, 2018

Lake Panoramas

Lake Panoramas

Test Flights Complete With 20 problem-free flights between us (all in wide open fields in the middle of nowhere) there is now a good a level of trust building between me and my new flyer, so I am more  confident taking it where there are (a few more) people. Gotta watch out for defensive birds too, who can take a multirotor down if they take exception to it and attack. Fortunately today’s birds were quite chilled out and I wasn’t worried, having established in my pre-flight scout that there were no big raptors, or swallows about (the 2 main avian UAV aggressors). There is a lot to love about that machine, and today’s performance was one of its best. Whether it was gracefully side-swiping the tree line, or remaining nailed to the sky at any height for my various slow pans, the Typhoon H proved itself more than adequate to the task, although to be fair it was a particularly calm evening and even at 400 ft winds were...

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Posted by on Jul 10, 2018

Testing the Typhoon H

Testing the Typhoon H

Here are my thoughts on the first sessions with the Typhoon H. Hopefully not only is this a record of the flights for me but might be useful to other pilots about to fly the H for the first time. Large open space with nobody in it… (OK, 2 people and a dog in it, but even so…) When you get a new flying machine, and have done all its updates and hardware checks, the only thing remaining to be done is to get out there, fly it and learn its systems and responses. Being a pilot of some reasonable experience I know that this is best done far away from other people, so I have a selection of local ‘test grounds’, where I have permission to fly, and if I go early or late enough in the day the chances of encountering other people is very slim. All those are cricket pitches in my case, which are very good flying environments (when there isn’t a match on!) because...

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Posted by on Jul 7, 2018

Back from the Brink…

Back from the Brink…

Long time no fly ! Aerocam has been grounded for the last 3 years, mainly because of ‘trust issues’. After the 3rd crash caused by DJI flight controllers and no pilot error, I was at the point where I simply could not and would not trust that company again. Their lack of concern or willingness to admit to or address a problem that has plagued their flight controllers since the first one they ever built has left DJI’s reputation in tatters for me. They might be the biggest in the world, but they are flawed and have let me down 3 times too many. Discovery Pro I loved that machine, and in the year I had it before DJI trashed it was one the happiest and most rewarding periods of flying I’ve ever had, and the first time I had ever achieved proper broadcast-smooth footage, with that amazing gimbal and My GoPro 3+. Very keen to differentiate between the excellent Team Black Sheep, who have designed a brilliant system...

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Posted by on Aug 31, 2015

Airwheel 600 – A Year-in Review

Airwheel 600 – A Year-in Review

Who’s counting the hours ? I am. Thought it was about time I did another Airwheel blog as I have finally crossed the ‘600 hours on it’ mark, a relatively landmark moment, because it means that my time on the machine has cost just £1 an hour and every hour I spend on it now just makes that even cheaper and better value for money. It has to be said I am truly impressed with the reliability and the lack of ongoing costs in the year and a bit since I’ve had mine. Indeed, my Airwheel X5 has moved me over 3500 miles, saved me an incredible amount on petrol, and made all my journeys much more enjoyable than walking or driving into the bargain. She looks a bit worn round the edges now, but she’s still motoring along… The Joy of the Ride You can train yourself to do some pretty amazing things on an Airwheel, but I have found all my efforts focused on practical riding skills rather than...

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Posted by on Aug 17, 2015

A New Era of Flight Control

A New Era of Flight Control

Goodbye DJI Having had my second flyaway, and as usual no response from DJI, my trust in them and their flight controllers is just not there anymore. So I won’t be using anything made by them again. Ok, maybe their high density plastic multirotor arms but nothing else. But what else is there, Flight Controller-wise ? Quite a bit of choice, as it goes… After some exhaustively lengthy research, I have narrowed my choice of flight controller for my TBS Discovery Pro rebuild to either a 3DRobotics Pixhawk, or an Eagletree Vector. I also looked at the APM 2.6, CC3D, Naze32, Hobbyking’s KK2.0,The Unmanned Tech All-in-One and a few more besides, but decided that the cheaper acro boards were not really for me, given that my main focus is smooth, slow, sail-plane style aerial video, not screaming it round a forest with high-speed mini-quad action, to which the smaller, cheaper boards, without GPS seem more suited. The Semi-final Eagletree Vector I really like the Vector, and Eagletree in general, and the Vector’s in-built...

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Posted by on Jul 13, 2015

Flyaway Disco

Flyaway Disco

The classic DJI flyaway Despite doing everything reasonable to avoid it, I am already a member of the esteemed DJI Flyaway club, but today I reconfirmed my membership by being the victim of a new mystery flyaway, which happened for no appreciable reason and without any sort of warning, following 2 minutes of perfectly normal flight control. Location is everything Ever since my first DJI flyaway, I have been extra cautious about where I fly, so as to minimize as much as possible the risk to people, animals and property if the worst should happen. Today I was up on the high hills of Ditcham, Hampshire in the setting sun, trying to get some stunning high aerial views of the interesting clouds and sweeping landscape. If we are going to crash, this is at least the perfect place to do it, miles away from anything that isn’t fields or trees. All systems ready ? This was the first flight of the day, and I had completed all the normal ground checks...

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Posted by on Jun 28, 2015

Treyford Rise

Treyford Rise

Summer Solstice, almost… OK, 2 days late for the solstice, and 3 days short of the longest day of the year, but thought it was about time I went and got some sunset action while the daylight hours are so long. So as 9 pm approached the sun was heading behind some fairly epic clouds, and the skies were turning golden just as I was rolling along the road between Treyford and Didling (really ?) hoping to find somewhere good to launch from, ideally next to a fairly impressive bit of the South Downs. Luckily, half way along it I found a convenient layby, and a newly sown field with an open gate, and perfect launch spaces, so resolved to do 3 quick flights here in what I had been led to believe by the BBC was fairly light wind. Up, up and away… No craft in the air around me at first launch, so I went for ‘cams-pointed-at-the-sky’, and a fair bit of height. And the height was where it was...

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Posted by on Jun 17, 2015

150 Tiny Gardens

150 Tiny Gardens

Interesting Things on the Ground… Constantly on the look-out for new places to explore from the air, my various wanderings took me just up the road from home, where I discovered a vast empty field neighbouring a pretty large set of allotments. Intrigued to see what they would look like from above, I set about planning this flight session extremely carefully. No, I haven’t counted them. But there’s loads. It is my hope that the individual allotment owners (I couldn’t ask them all) won’t mind my brief sailplane around their growing efforts, and  might appreciate an unusual view of their produce. Safety first… There is more need for safety and risk assessment at this fly-site than at almost any other I have flown before, entirely due to its proximity to the railway track that passes behind the allotments. Although a lot of it is protected by tall trees, not all of it is, and I needed to be able to guarantee that I would not overfly the track, or...

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Posted by on Jun 15, 2015

Petersfield Heath Summer 2015

Petersfield Heath Summer 2015

Rain stops, let’s go Hello archaeologists ! And Summer. Join me for an aerial view of some of Petersfield Heath, replete with burial mound dig sites, and a bit of lake action. There’s also a golf course over there somewhere. I say Summer, but not sun, as it had been raining all day (despite being the hottest day of the year) and this somewhat lucky flight is the result of me checking the weather every 10 minutes, and then running out with my RC gear to grab a skyfull in the single half hour in which rain had ceased. Eye on the sky… I can fly in rain, but choose not to on the whole, as it’s not much fun flying in the wet, and it also makes battery pack connections more sparky and unpredictable. But dry sky was mine for the whole session, despite rather impending clouds, and I had 3 pretty much perfect flights, of around 9-10 mins each on my Turnigy 5 amp power packs. Kept the...

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Posted by on Jun 11, 2015

Farewell Little Ladybird

Farewell Little Ladybird

Microquad vs. Wind Popped out to my local practice field today for a little session with my favourite microquad, the tiny but relatively resilient Walkera Ladybird V2. I knew the wind was gusty, but the BBC told me it was around 14 mph so I resolved to keep it fairly low, and go for 3 short practice flights in manual mode. It would transpire that I had underestimated the power of thermals, because after 2 successful flights with no crashes I suddenly found my little microflyer lifted about 70 ft into the air on a passing thermal, and then an unusually consistent gust of wind grabbed it and took it toward the houses on the other side of the field. Despite giving it full power in the opposite direction to try and bring it back to me, she couldn’t fight this particularly strong wind, and it continued on towards the buildings. Incapable of damage Although I wasn’t worried about causing damage to people or property (it only weighs 22...

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Posted by on Jun 6, 2015

Old Litten Lane

Old Litten Lane

Spring into Summer From the ground at least, the weather looked perfect for a spot of flying half way through this week, and I thought it might be time to head up high to Stoner Hill, and see if I could capture the beautiful Spring greens along the ridge of the hill just outside Petersfield. I only had 3 charged battery packs with me, so I knew my time there would be brief, but it was enough to gain some reasonable height and check out the view both sides of the hill crest. Although there is a public footpath that runs through the fields and woods to the left of Old Litten Lane, I was especially delighted to randomly meet the owner of the surrounding fields as she checked on her horses, and was delighted that she gave me permission to take-off and overfly her land, so thank you very much to her for that. In-flight I took off from the field closest to the footpath where the charming...

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Posted by on May 21, 2015

Golden Heights

Golden Heights

Drive-by-flyings Today I was out looking for the few rapeseed fields that haven’t yet been harvested, and I must have driven for a good 40 minutes without finding a single suitable one, but as I turned back on to the A3, I wondered if there were any on the way up towards Butser Hill, which I would shortly be passing. A worthwhile digression as it turns out, because there’s at least 3 of them nearly at the crest of the hill, and one of the fields had helpful unrestricted access (yep, I could get through that gap). As it was the middle of a working day, there was almost nobody about, but I was resolved to be especially vigilant about other things in the sky (although I didn’t see a single flying thing other than the one I put there in the entire session) and having a clear view in all directions from my launch site, I felt confident to gain a bit of height, and have a pan round the...

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Posted by on May 15, 2015

Above Harting Down

Above Harting Down

Test flight 4 complete… Harting down is a good place for test flights – acres and acres of high hilltop greenery, relatively good recovery possibilities if anything should go horribly wrong, and a clear line of sight in every direction. Nice long grass as well, except on the pathways, so we can expect some cushioning should we have to come down in a hurry. Not that I was expecting, or experienced any problems at all – it was 3 pretty much perfect flights with full GPS lock all the time, on the red, blue and red/yellow battery 5000 mAH Turnigy packs, which are the only ones that have proved reliable so far, and still hold almost a full charge 3 years after I bought them. Higher, please… There are good video reasons to fly Harting Down every so often, you start high, and it’s worth going to the (CAA imposed) max 400 ft above that to gain some spectacular views over South Harting and East Harting, and all the...

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Posted by on May 11, 2015

2015 Test Flights 2 and 3

2015 Test Flights 2 and 3

Higher, Faster, Longer Yep, it’s a double entry for test flights 2 and 3, which went on last week in the gaps between all that mental wind. The Naza-M V1 (v2.12 software) continues to fly perfectly, and film beautifully, and my ongoing battery tests are re-familiarising me with what keeps me in the air and for how long, so I am gaining confidence that I still have a pretty much perfectly optimized aerial rig I can start to set on some decent photo missions without worry. The GoPro4 Black Edition does OK, but if I’m honest, not as well in some respects as its predecessor the 3+ which seems to give a better average light setting, and records arguably higher quality footage than the 4 does at high frame rates. It’s battery also does better, although with only 4 power packs, giving around 25 mins of flight, camera power isn’t a problem. We do have a cable that’s gone intermittent – the flyout cable that connects to the GoPro from...

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